Tuesday, January 18

After 25 years, celebrating the little car that saved porsche


Last week, in the no-man’s-land between Malibu and Calabasas, California, Porsche loaned me a silver-pink Boxster with two-tone bronze metal wheels and a leather interior the color of Marilyn Monroe’s lipstick.

Under the hood, the little roadster was the same as a conventional 2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS – offering 394 horsepower, with a 3.8 second 0-60 mph sprint (in automatic PDK format) and a top speed of 182 mph ( manually). ).

But this one was special, says Porsche, and the unique color combinations mean it. Emblazoned with “Boxster 25” badges and copper Neodyme on the front and side air intakes, this was a limited edition of 1,250 Boxsters, made to celebrate the brave machine that saved Porsche from ruin.

With a starting price of $ 98,600, more expensive than a Mazda Miata, sure, but more affordable than a Porsche Cayman GT4, the Porsche Boxster 25 Years represents a way for brand loyalists to own a model that is easy and fun to drive. that carries the weight of historical significance to boot.

The 25 Year Old Boxster is based on the 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 and is powered by a 394 horsepower naturally aspirated 4.0-liter six-cylinder boxer engine. Image: Hannah Elliott / Bloomberg

Porsche spokesman Luke Vandezande objected when specifically asked how many Boxster 25s are left to buy. But as with anything, where there is a will, there is a way: make friends with your local dealer, who might find a hidden assignment for you, or at least someone who will sell you theirs.

The little car that could

In any case, the Boxster is a great story. People like to say that the Cayenne SUV saved Porsche. But before that, it was the humble Boxster.

In 1987, Porsche fell off a cliff. The crowd’s excitement at the roars of the 911 Turbos of the 1970s and 1980s had cooled to “meh.” Sales of the entry-level front-engined four-cylinder 968 had done nothing to propel Porsche to anything other than being known, if at all, as a small brand fit for track buffs only.

Sales in the US market had fallen from record highs of around 30,000 in 1986 to less than 9,100 in 1990. At the beginning of 1993, Porsche was selling only 3,700 vehicles there a year.

Horst Marchart, then Porsche’s head of research and development, knew that if Porsche was to survive, it would need to develop a car that was exciting, cheap to build, and aimed at the company’s largest potential market: North America.

“It had to be a two-seater with a front end close to that of the 911 to ensure clear identification of the car as a Porsche,” Marchart told Hagerty years later. Not said: its front end would resemble (that is, mimic) much of that of the 911, so you could share parts and cut costs.

“The new car should cost around 70,000 marks” (about $ 41,000, which made it half as expensive as the 911), Marchart said, “and also attract younger customers.”

The original Porsche Boxster and the 25 year old Porsche Boxster side by side. Image: Hannah Elliott / Bloomberg

Enter Grant Larson. In late 1993, the American car designer who went on to design the Porsche Carrera GT and the Porsche Panamera had developed the concept that would comply with Marchart’s dictates. Larson based it on the super light, simple, topless Porsche cars of the 1950s and 1960s (the 356, 550 Spyder, 718 RSK), with the idea of ​​making a more sophisticated 914, the tiny roadster that Porsche had discontinued in 1976. Since then, the visual form and look of Porsche two-door cars has hardly changed.

Another American, Steve Murkett, invented the name “Boxster”, which was a combination of Porsche’s famous “boxer” engine and the “roadster” body. Meanwhile, Porsche asked a group of former Toyota executives for their expertise in streamlining production to maximize profits.

And there you go! The Boxster concept debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 1993. Porsche marketed it as the future of energetic and affordable driving. Production started in 1996. In the first year in the US alone, Porsche sold 7,000 of them. It instantly became the company’s best-seller.

The same but different

Driving the modern Boxster is close to driving its ancestors. So if you expect more than cosmetic enhancements in this special edition, you will be disappointed.

But those looking for their first Porsche or a sports car that they can drive every day while keeping the 911 in the garage for special occasions will be delighted. During my day touring canyons bathed in golden October light, its six-cylinder engine and lightweight body felt brave and light, as you can imagine in an upgraded Miata. Its six-speed manual transmission and super-tight steering stuck it to the road with the urgency of a hungry puppy. That grrrr’d when I pressed the gas. This is a car that you can push to the brink of your limits. It feels accessible, achievable, which is generally a lot more fun than driving a 700+ horsepower monster that you constantly struggle to contain so the thing doesn’t kill you.

The interior cabin of the Boxster is arranged like that of other Porsche cabs. You are pleasantly familiar with its small displays and the careful balance between touchscreen technology and tangible buttons and knobs. (It was noticeably smaller than the one on the 991 Turbo S that it had arrived in that morning.) It is usable but not extensive: the soft top roof raises in approximately 10 seconds; a duffel bag and coat can fit in the front trunk, nothing more. Of course, there is no back seat. The cup holder count is like 911: two.

You can buy the Boxster 25 in GT Silver Metallic, like the one I drove, or in Jet Black Metallic or Carrera White Metallic. In addition to that burgundy red leather interior with a red cloth roadster top, both the interior and top are also available in black. (I’d pick those – the bronze on the car I drove was not dark enough, nor was the silver bright enough, to capture my heart, aesthetically speaking.) Interior package with brushed aluminum accents, 14-way electrically adjustable Sport seats, door sill trims with “Boxster 25” lettering and heated leather sports steering wheel are standard equipment.

What I liked the most is that Grant Larson, the guy who designed the first Boxster a quarter of a century ago, is still with Porsche today. Now director of special projects design, he also designed the Boxster 25. New and old cars look strikingly similar. Continuity! Talk about a point of sale. The car hardly looks much different from the first one, but don’t call it boring. Call it 25 years of inheritance.

More special notes on the Boxster 25: The fuel filler cap and high-gloss tailpipes are painted in an aluminum look and the windshield frame is finished in black. Image: Hannah Elliott / Bloomberg

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